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Basic Chainmail 


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Basic Chainmail 

Written By: Annalee Newitz 


• Dowel (1) 

which you can hold in place with a rack 
or some other device 

• Hammer (1) 

• Needle Nose Pliers (1) 

• Rod Clamp (1) 

• Wire Snipper (1) 

for cutting wire rods or coat hangers 


Wire hanger (15) 

or several feet of stripped aluminum wire 
or junk wire that you want to recycle. Or 
you can buy pre- made steel rings from 
http://chainmail. com. 


Henrik Olsgaard, aka Henrik of Havn, has been proclaimed King of the West six times. 
Obviously the guy is deft with a sword — you don't get to be King in the Society for Creative 
Anachronism (SCA) without winning several bouts in the annual Crown Tournament. But his 
triumph is also testimony to his skill at making chainmail. Henrik has been fashioning 
chainmail of every description for the past four decades — from beautiful, sterling silver 
belts to a 50-pound battle hauberk (a knee-length shirt). 

And now, I'm going to teach you what he taught me: how to make your own chainmail. With 
just a few basic patterns, you'll have all the knowledge you need to fashion a helmet, shirt, 
belt, coin purse, and even a full hauberk. 

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Basic Chainmail 

For this project, we'll create square and triangular swatches of chainmail, which are the 
basic building blocks for anything larger. There are two ways to go about this: you can 
make your own rings from stripped aluminum electrical wire, store-bought wire, or coat 
hangers, or you can buy the rings ready-made from sources like . 

If you'd like to create your own rings, begin with the wire of your choice. For lighter pieces, 
you might try aluminum wire. Most mail makers prefer steel. To create the rings, wind your 
wire around a rod, then flatten the end with a hammer and hold it in place with a small rod 

As you wind, you're creating a high-tension spring — if you slip, the wire can snap 
back at you quickly. 

Next, you'll want to slip the coil off your rod and use a wire snipper to cut the rings. 

Be sure, as you're cutting, that you are creating full rings and not leaving gaps. 

Shortcut: Some armor makers cut their rings out of door springs. 

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Basic Chainmail 

Once you have a few hundred rings, you're ready to start knitting (for reference, a full 
hauberk takes about 10,200 rings). To do this, you'll start by creating a small length of 
chain using 2 needlenose pliers to open and close each ring — this is the knitting part. 
When you pull the rings open, be sure to open them sideways. 

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Basic Chainmail 

Your first string should be twice as long as the first row in the swatch you'll be making. For 
this exercise, we chose to make the string 20 rings long, for a 10-ring row. Once you have 
your string, you'll want to thread it onto a thin rod so that it hangs properly as you add 
length. Henrik's knitting rig is typical — he's got two uprights with holes in them to place 
the rod into. But you can use literally anything that will hold your rod in place as you work, 
including simply taping it to 2 boxes. 

To create the first 2 rows, you should thread every other ring, thus creating the kind of 
design shown. 

This is the beginning of the "four in one" pattern you'll use for the rest of your swatch. 
When you make your next row, you'll want each ring to link to 2 others. Each ring on the 
second row should have 4 rings in it. 

If you want to make a square, every other row should begin with a ring that only holds one 
ring from the row above, as described thus far. But for a triangle, you want to shrink each 
row by 2. So you'll start each row with a ring that connects 2 from the row above. Keep 
knitting until you have a square or triangle of the size you wish. 

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Basic Chainmail 

Now that you're practiced, you're ready to pick a pattern and start making something other 
than a square or triangular swatch. The image shows how triangles and squares can fit 
together to create other shapes. There are several sites that offer patterns you can choose 
from, including , which sells armor supplies and pattern books and 
hosts a community forum, as does . 

Henrik says that the best part of chainmail making is getting a chance to wear and use it with 
friends. "I don't like getting in front of paying audiences to do this," he explains. "I like to share 
what I've done at SCA tournaments and places where everybody participates in the event." And 
that's where I find him, in full armor, a few weeks after our lesson. 

This project first appeared in CRAFT Volume 01 . page 115. 

This document was last generated on 201 2-1 1 -03 02:39:21 AM. 

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